WOLF – The creator and star of the BBC’s new horror-thriller speak

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The show, based on Mo Hayder’s acclaimed novels, is described as nail-biting and deeply disturbing. 

The BBC’s new thriller series, WOLF, arrives on Monday, 31st July and promises to be a mashup of crime and horror genres. Its cast, led by Ukweli Roach, includes Juliet Stevenson and Owen Teale, as well as Sacha Dhawan, Iwan Rheon and Torchwood‘s Kai Owen.

Here’s how the BBC describe WOLF:

DI Jack Caffery is a young detective beset by nightmares. Obsessed with the neighbour he believes murdered his 10 year-old brother in the 90s, Jack finds himself trying to right the wrongs of others – but at what cost? In an isolated house in Monmouthshire, the wealthy Anchor-Ferrers family find themselves the victims of a psychopath’s cruel games, trapped and terrorised. When the two narratives collide, it is a thrilling, nail-biting and deeply disturbing race against time.


Ahead of its launch, series creator Megan Gallagher has penned an introduction…

WOLF is a hugely entertaining, six-part horror-thriller series based on Mo Hayder’s twisted and imaginative crime novels featuring DI Jack Caffery. This series charts two storylines that are nail-bitingly close to one another but don’t collide until one heck of a finale that includes song and dance (yes, really), and a fair bit of blood. The tone of the series is at times heightened and absurd, with large doses of dark humour, which I think audiences will find really thrilling. A riveting crime story was baked into Mo’s novel – such incredible plotting – as a screenwriter, it completely hooked me in.

The project is a partnership between Laurent Boissel of APC Studios and Elaine Cameron of Hartswood Films. As a writer, you work with a lot of different producers. But the collaboration between myself, Elaine and Laurent has been extraordinarily special to me. This is a unique series with a very unique tone; as a writer, you need a lot of constructive encouragement and smart feedback to get it just right. Fortunately, that is exactly what I got with my producers every step of the way.

WOLF - Ukweli Roach as Jack Caffery
Ukweli Roach as DI Jack Caffery

I was initially drawn to WOLF because, unlike so many crime novels, it’s a proper thriller, with massively high stakes and a hugely climatic finale. But at the heart of it all is Mo Hayder’s central character, whom I truly adore: DI Jack Caffery. What sets Jack apart from so many other maverick detective characters is rather simple – he’s a millennial. At just 32 years of age, Jack isn’t dealing with a failed marriage or a strained relationship with his children. He’s also not a deeply corrupt detective. Rather, he’s trying to make all of these life decisions for the first time. Do I want a relationship or family? What kind of detective am I going to be?

One of the biggest writing challenges of this series was balancing the two crime storylines, (both of which are rich with twists and turns – one of Mo Hayder’s specialities), with enough breathing room for characterisation. I’d like to think we succeeded in doing this, though, as evidenced by the stunning cast we got on board. The roles in this series are hugely demanding and every actor brought their A game.

Juliet Stevenson and WOLF - Owen Teale as Matilda and Oliver Anchor-Ferrers
Juliet Stevenson and Owen Teale as Matilda and Oliver Anchor-Ferrers

Filming in Wales was a pleasure. Not only are there incredible visuals available to showcase in the series, but the creative departments were top notch. And at the heart of our production were two fantastic directors. The first three episodes were helmed by Kristoffer Nyholm, who brought such an artistry to the series. He understood the terror and the humour of the story so perfectly; it’s not an easy job but he made it look like it was. He simply nailed the tone. The back three episodes were directed by Lee Haven Jones who had some spectacularly challenging scenes and sequences, not only in terms of action and set pieces, but also in terms of emotional performances that had to be captured perfectly. To say Lee ‘came through’ on all that would be an understatement.

As a screenwriter, it’s not often you’re handed a world like the one Mo Hayder built. Getting to play around in what she created has genuinely been the highlight of my career. I’m incredibly proud of WOLF; it’s a series for people who like their crime served up in a slightly different way. The episodes build and build and the finale is truly an example of everyone – actors, directors, scripts, music, art department, everyone! – all coming together in a gorgeous harmony. This is not a series that deflates in its climax; this is a series that sings.

The show’s star Ukweli Roach also talks about the show

WOLF - Ukweli Roach as DI Jack Caffery
Ukweli Roach as DI Jack Caffery

Who is Jack Caffery?

Jack Caffery is a police detective who lives in London and previously worked in Wales – in Cardiff and Newport. He has a disturbed background with a lot of trauma that he tries to hide, which has made his character quite malformed. As clichéd as it sounds, I would describe Jack as a lone wolf. He’s someone who, because of the traumas in his past, has isolated himself and finds comfort in isolation because he can’t be hurt that way. His trauma essentially shaped his whole personality.

Can you tease a little bit about what’s in store for him?

Jack goes on quite a journey over the series to get to the answers he wants. That’s really where we see the wolf in him, in the sense that he can’t let go of the metaphorical scent of blood. We see the lengths that he will go to, whether legal or not, to get his man to speak. Jack is driven solely by wanting to find out what happened to his brother and where his brother is laid to rest. There’s a drive for a certain amount of revenge, but behind that revenge is the want for closure.

With regards to finding the killer of the Donkey Pitch murder case, Jack wants to prove a point to DI Lincoln that she was wrong because there’s also a power struggle going on there. He also wants to prove himself and his instincts right as he had a feeling from the beginning that something was wrong. Deep down there is a good core in Jack and a desire to catch whoever is responsible to prevent anything similar happening again.

What attracted you to the role?

As soon as I read the first script I wanted to be part of this. There were so many things about the series that I felt an affinity with so when I did get the part, I didn’t believe my agent. It was just such a fun part to play as an actor because it involved so many different actions, objectives and conflicts that all play out against each other. There was so much for me to work with and real substance to the character too – Jack is honest, brutally honest at times, and there’s a real root of pain that you can play off. It’s also been brilliant to work with these great directors and such a fantastic cast and crew, it really makes you want to up your game.

How did you approach playing him?

This is the most work I’ve done before filming any job, partly because it’s the best script I’ve ever read and the best part I’ve ever played. There was a lot of digging as I wanted to get to the root of my character to understand why he’s so aggressive in certain situations, when and why he’s become a wolfish character and where the pain is coming from. I think pain is quite a big part of his character and it’s malformed him in certain ways. For me, a big part of my preparation was also music. I made a Jack Caffery playlist that I listened to and there’s certain tracks from a range of different genres that really stick out to me as the lyrics would relate to Jack, his character or what he’s going through in his life. Music is a big way in for me – into the character, atmosphere and mood.

Why should audiences watch WOLF?

WOLF has something for everyone, especially those who like a great crime thriller. It’s got plenty of horror, plenty of crime and a lot of action. It’s got great dilemmas, interpersonal relationships and lots of twists and turns – everything that you could want. WOLF is unique because the series follows two parallel, quite deep and complex cases. It manipulates time with one storyline happening faster than the other but the two gradually catch up with each other to meet in their final culmination. Some elements are quite fantastical and theatrical which juxtaposes against the grit, gore and the action. I think audiences are really going to enjoy it.

Written and adapted by Megan Gallagher (Suspicion), WOLF runs to six hour-long episodes. The show’s producers are Hartswood Films and APC Studios, in association with Creative Wales. The directors are Kristoffer Nyholm (The Killing) and Lee Haven Jones (The Long Call). The executive producers are Elaine Cameron (Hartswood Films), Laurent Boissel (APC Studios), Megan Gallagher, Kristoffer Nyholm and Rebecca Ferguson (BBC).

WOLF arrives on BBC One, BBC One Wales and iPlayer on Monday, 31st July 2023.